For Some in Japan, Home Is a Tiny Plastic Bunk
( New York Times )

For Atsushi Nakanishi, jobless since Christmas, home is a cubicle barely bigger than a coffin ― one of dozens of berths stacked two units high in one of central Tokyo’s decrepit “capsule” hotels.

“It’s just a place to crawl into and sleep,” he said, rolling his neck and stroking his black suit ― one of just two he owns after discarding the rest of his wardrobe for lack of space. “You get used to it.”

When Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 opened nearly two decades ago, Japan was just beginning to pull back from its bubble economy, and the hotel’s tiny plastic cubicles offered a night’s refuge to salarymen who had missed the last train home.

Now, Hotel Shinjuku 510’s capsules, no larger than 6 1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide, and not tall enough to stand up in, have become an affordable option for some people with nowhere else to go as Japan endures its worst recession since World War II.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・bunk (船・列車などの)寝台
・cubicle (寮などの仕切った)小寝室、小室
・berth (船・列車などの)寝台、停泊地
・stack 積み重ねる
・wardrobe 洋服だんす、持ち衣装

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Obama Becomes Japan’s English Teacher
( New York Times )

When Utako Sakai was changing the background music in her beauty parlor recently, she did not opt for the classical piano pieces she usually chose.

Instead, she picked her favorite CD: “President Obama’s Inaugural Address,” released by Asahi Press, a Japanese publisher of language books. She says the speech lifts her spirits and helps her to learn English all at once.

Most Japanese people, including those studying English, would have difficulty comprehending a speech given by a native English speaker. But “Mr. Obama’s English is easy to understand because he pronounces words clearly and speaks at a relatively slow clip,” said Professor Tadaharu Nikaido, a communication specialist here. “Movies tend to be the most difficult for Japanese, especially when actors mumble their words.”

But there are probably a large number of buyers who do not really possess the basic English skills to understand his speech, said Yuzo Yamamoto, an editor at Asahi Press. Since the sales took off, he has received postcards from readers saying they had been touched by Mr. Obama’s speeches, but “those same people have said they were moved even though they didn’t understand English well,” he said. “Some even said the only phrase they caught was, ‘Yes, we can.’ They said they were in tears nonetheless.”

【 まずは準備運動 】

・piece 一片、断片、一遍の作品
・comprehend 理解する
・mumble もぐもぐ(ぶつぶつ、ぼそぼそ)言う
・nonetheless それでもなお、それにもかかわらず

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Young Japanese Women Vie for a Once-Scorned Job
( New York Times )

The women who pour drinks in Japan’s sleek gentlemen’s clubs were once shunned because their duties were considered immodest: lavishing adoring (albeit nonsexual) attention on men for a hefty fee.

But with that line of work, called hostessing, among the most
lucrative jobs available to women and with the country neck-deep in a recession, hostess positions are increasingly coveted, and hostesses themselves are gaining respectability and even acclaim. Japan’s worst recession since World War II is changing mores.

“More women from a diversity of backgrounds are looking for hostess work,” said Kentaro Miura, who helps manage seven clubs in Kabuki-cho, Tokyo’s glittering red-light district. “There is less resistance to becoming a hostess. In fact, it’s seen as a glamorous job.”

But behind this trend is a less-than-glamorous reality. Employment opportunities for young women, especially those with no college education, are often limited to low-paying, dead-end jobs or temp positions.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・hefty 重い、かなりの
・fee 手数料、料金、報酬
・recession 退場、(景気などの一時的)後退
・acclaim 歓呼、喝采
・mores (社会学用語)一集団の社会的慣行、道徳的姿勢
・glitter ピカピカ光る、きらきら光る

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Those off lay judge hook feel relieved
( Japan Times )

Relief was the overriding emotion of the candidates who weren't
picked in a final lottery draw Monday to participate in the first criminal trial under the new lay judge system.

"I was glad because I had been nervous and worried, as I don't have any legal knowledge and I wasn't sure if I could make a proper decision regarding someone else's crime," a 31-year-old computer firm employee from Nerima Ward said at a news conference after being told by the court he was free to go home.

The six who were chosen sat alongside the three professional judges in the murder trial of Katsuyoshi Fujii. The trial is to run through Thursday.

The five dismissed candidates who agreed to speak to reporters
admitted they had been nervous and not keen to sit on the bench. But some said their release was anticlimactic because they had been prepared to be picked.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・candidate 候補者
・regard 見なす、考慮する、関する
・admit 認める、許す

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Kids under 15 can give organs
( Japan Times )

A bill to revise the Organ Transplant Law and scrap the donor age minimum at 15 gained full Diet passage when it cleared the Upper House on Monday.

The bill, known as Plan A, which won Lower House approval last month, allows brain-dead children under age 15 to be an organ donor with the family's consent and recognizes brain death as legal death.

The current transplant law, enacted 12 years ago, forbids brain-dead people under age 15 from becoming an organ donor. Supporters of Plan A had aimed to revise the law to increase the self-sufficiency of domestic organ availability, but some lawmakers argued brain death is too sensitive an issue and thus should not be universally recognized as actual death.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・transplant 移植する、移住させる
・revise 改訂する、改正する
・universally 宇宙的に、全世界的に、普遍的に

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